The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced budget measure is now the law of the land, but some people remain unhappy about it. Among the unhappiest are 200 students, teachers and parents from Ashburton Elementary School in Bethesda.
For weeks, the Ashburtonites had been planning to take the White House public tour on Dec. 16. The whole school had been bubbling about it. "I mean, the kids were more excited than if they'd been on their way to see Santa Claus," reported one chaperone.
Because their group was so large, the Ashburtonites had made a reservation with the White House Visitors Office. They even showed up 10 minutes early in case there was some mistake. "We did everything by the book," the chaperone said.
But as they stood outside the gates of the White House, the group was informed that the building had been closed to public tours for the rest of the day so the president could conduct the Gramm-Rudman bill-signing ceremony. There was no advance notice, no apology and -- on the part of the police officer stationed at the gate -- not a whole bunch of sympathy.
The Ashburtonites said they have nothing against bill-signing ceremonies. But couldn't somebody from the White House have called the school ahead of time and told them that public tours had been canceled for the day?
"At the last minute, we had to limit the number of tours going through," said Dale Petroskey, the assistant White House press secretary. " . . . .We regret that it happened, but when the president has something like this . . . ."
"Occasionally, the president needs to use his house," added Dottie Dellinger of the White House Visitors Office.
But no White House bill-signing ceremony is ever organized at the drop of a hat, and the Gramm-Rudman ceremony wasn't, either. It usually takes most of a morning to set up a ceremony for the same afternoon. A lot of times, the setting-up takes longer.
So there was plenty of time for the White House to have checked the public tours reservations log and to have made one timely phone call to Bethesda -- before the buses full of excited kids pulled away.
The Ashburtonites say they'll return and try to do better sometime in January. Let's hope the White House does the same.
Walter Nissen of Takoma Park pointed to his youngest daughter's face and said, "This is your upper lip."
She pointed to the lip just below it and said, "And this is my downer lip."
Bob Orben says he loves to watch TV reruns of "Ozzie and Harriet" because "it makes both me and my ties feel young again." CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
I always get a kick out of the reasons some people contribute to our annual fund-raising campaign. Here are the kickiest reasons so far this year:
George Wittie of Northwest plays Scrabble very well. He also plays it for money. That combination has been good news in the past for Children's Hospital, because George always donated his winnings to help sick kids.
But this year, t-r-r-r-rouble. "Don't believe my Scrabble winnings this year were as large as 1984," George writes. But he sent along his "usual" $25 anyway. Thanks, George, and may your days be filled with triple word scores forevermore.
Betty Riley of Fairfax Station gave $15 to the campaign because of a hubcap. It fell off her Oldsmobile station wagon on Dec. 3 as she drove to Fairfax Hospital, and it tried very hard to get lost. But two kind and alert fellow motorists picked up the hubcap, chased after Betty, waved at her to stop and handed the 'cap over. Thanks, gentlemen. You, too, Betty.
The woman asks that I not publish either her name or the number of pounds. But I can publish this:
She sent a sizable check to the campaign, which "represents a dollar a pound for the weight I've just lost" in a diet group. I'm sure you look better, generous lady. So does our campaign balance.
From Williamsburg comes $15 that used to belong to Kristin Kemper. She happily transfers it to Children's to commemorate the courage of her mother.
"Last January, my mother, Mary Joyce Kemper, fell while skiing for the National Ski Patrol," Kristin writes. "She sprained her knee and severely damaged one of the ligaments . . . ." But a couple of weeks ago, after 10 months of physical therapy, Mom skied again -- without incident.
"I'm in college at William and Mary and don't always get the chance to tell her how much I admire her courage and love her," Kristin writes. "So I'd love it if she could see this in print as a sign that I recognize all that she's been through and love her all the more for it."
Feast your eyes, Mary Joyce. And thanks for both your words and your generosity, Kristin.
Finally, we must rewrite the old business about charity beginning at home. Charity actually begins at the McLean flat belonging to Ed Zieses.
He contributed $100 to the campaign, with a note that read, in part: "The amount represents the savings in my heating bills for the past 12 months, after moving from a four-bedroom house to an apartment."
Most people would have put those savings in their own pockets. Thanks, Ed, for recognizing that other pockets have needs, too.
Here's an excellent way to add to the family videotape library and to help the Children's campaign at the same time.
The television station at George Washington University has offered to make a videotape of any child 10 years old or younger. Maximum tape length is 10 minutes per child. Cost is $1 per minute. You provide the videotape cassette. And all proceeds go to our campaign.
GWTV calls it Project Video Scrapbook. It sounds to these ears like an excellent way to give a Grandma in a faraway city a look at her newest grandchild, or for an uncle in the overseas military to get a slightly-delayed Christmas hello from his favorite niece.
GWTV will be open for kid-eotaping Dec. 27, Dec. 30, Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m. The studio is located at 801 22nd St. NW, room T-306. Call 676-8233 for further information.
The post-Christmas grumpies haven't stemmed the flow of group givers to our campaign. Here are some of the latest:
The Thursday Foul Weather Ladies and the Thursday A.M. Ladies Bowling Leagues, both found at the Marlow Heights Bowling Lanes ($25).
The Sounding Rocket Coffee Club at Goddard Space Flight Center ($100).
The coffee club at the Federal Grain Inspection Service's Compliance Division ($100).
The Offices of International Activities and Corporation Associates at the American Chemical Society ($20).
And the Little Old Ladies Bridge Club ($80).
Thanks to all of you. As for you others, if you haven't taken checkbook in hand yet . . . . TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.